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A guide to scattering ashes in the UK

scattering ashes after death

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It is quite common for people to wonder how to scatter ashes.  It is not something we do every day or something we openly talk about.

Yet the spreading of the ashes of a loved one is a significant event and one that needs to capture the precious moment of letting go off the body and saying goodbye.

However, what is not clear is if you can scatter the ashes just anywhere and if you need to seek permission.  In fact, “how to scatter ashes” is one of the most frequently asked questions for loved ones of people cremated.

Here are answers to a few of these questions.

Where can you scatter the ashes?

You have three choices when scattering ashes. You can choose a private property, public property and scattering gardens. If you wish to scatter the ashes on private property, you can do so with the permission of the landowner.

It is permitted to scatter ashes on public property, though the National Trust and National Parks require you to seek consent in advance.

Scattering gardens are a popular alternative. These gardens are tranquil spaces that have been designed specifically for this peaceful, and they offer a beautiful place to visit your loved one.

In short, there seems to be little limitation on where you can scatter ashes, as long as you seek permission.

How should you scatter the ashes?

The remains of your loved one will be returned to you as ‘cremains’. This will not appear as ash as such. Instead, there will be pieces of crushed bone that will not break down during cremation.  Therefore, the remains will not be a uniform size – coming in various chunky shapes and sizes. This sight can often be a shock to people on first viewing.

When selecting your site, be aware that some remains will fly off in the wind. However, some remains will fall to the ground where you stand. You need to design a scattering where both outcomes are ideal for you.

If you have hired a pilot, drone operator or sea captain to help you in the scattering process, be sure to check that they have the necessary knowledge and experience. There will be laws related to disposal at sea and from the air that should be handled by someone with the appropriate expertise.

If you are going to personally scatter the ashes, there are several recognised techniques.


Casting is where you stand and move your arm, allowing the ashes to be picked up by the wind. Check wind direction to make sure that the remains do not blow back into your face. Be aware that there will be sharp edges to some of the remains and they can be an irritant to the eyes and skin. Therefore, despite how upsetting it would be to have your loved ones remains all over you, it can also offer some risk of irritation.


Trenching is an option like burial. You will choose to take the ashes and place them in a shallow trench, which will then be covered with earth. People then mark this trench with some plaque or stone. You can place the ashes in a biodegradable urn, and they will eventually become a part of the soil.

Alternatively, you can take the ashes to the coast and dig a trench into the sand. You can then pour the ashes in the trench. As the sea comes in, your loved one’s remains will be carried out on the tide. You can easily mark the spot with a memorial bench or plaque close by.

Raking or washing

Some prefer to rake the ash into the soil and others will scatter the ashes on water. Raking ash into the earth can be an excellent way to fertilise the land and any flowers or tree planted in the spot will flourish. If you want to choose to scatter in water, you will again need to consider the tidal flow and the direction of the wind.

Scattering from the air

If you want to spread your loved one over an area far and wide that they loved, then scattering from an aeroplane or a drone is an excellent option. If it is a beauty spot that meant the world to them, this can give you a peaceful place to visit to feel that you are with them again. You will need to seek the help of a professional.

The law in brief

The laws surrounding scattering are quite relaxed. If you are all worried about the legal requirements, you should speak to the crematorium who will be able to provide advice.


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4 years ago

Thankyou for this useful article. I’d like to suggest that anyone scattering ashes is advised to scatter them directly from the container they come in, or something similar, and that people are advised not to inadvertently reach into the container and take out a handful, etc. to scatter. Apart from the risk of skin irritation that you’ve already mentioned, it might seem disrespectful to then have to go and wash someone’s remains off your hands and see them go down the drain.

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